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RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



Quarterly 



Volume XV No. 4 



1985 



George Schmitt 
Pioneer Aviator 




The aspiring aviator, George J. Schmitt, in 1904, at the age of 12 



George Schmitt, Pioneer Aviator 
1892-1913 



By Thomas B. McDevitt 



to 1904 the 12-year old boy pictured on the cover had a persistent dream: he 
wanted to fly. Aviation was in its infancy and George Schmitt wanted to grow up 
with it. 

George J. Schmitt, Jr. was born in New York City on February 8, 1892. He was 
the son of George J, Schmitt, Sr., a German emigrant who settled in Rutland, Ver- 
mont, where he owned and operated the Marble City Bakery. He lived at S Royce 
Street. Young George attended Rutland High School and in the spring of 1910, 
when he had barely turned 18, he went to New York City to study electrical work 
at a trade school. It proved to be a brief matriculation. The urge to fly an airplane 
dominated his life. 

Only seven years had passed since Orville Wright, in 1903, had made the first of- 
ficially recognized flight in history over the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North 
Carolina. The distance covered was 120 feet in 12 seconds ... "a flight very 
modest compared with that of birds", conceded Orville. Later that same day, 
with Wilbur Wright at the controls, more successful flights were made of 852 feet 
that lasted 59 seconds. By some quirk, Orville Wright held not the first Aero Club 
of America's Pilot's License but No. 4. His brother Wilbur held the No. 5 pilot's 
license. 

The holder of the No. 1 pilot's license was Glenn H. Curtiss, the third man, after 
the Wright brothers, ever to fly. It was in the summer of 1908, almost five years 
after the historic flights of the Wright brothers, that the age of aviation seemed to 
come alive. Commencing on July 4, 1908, a series of events in rapid succession 
electrified the world: G.H, Curtiss made a public, offically witnessed, flight of one 
kilometer (.6214 of a mile) at Hammondsport, New York. 

Two years later Glenn Curtiss made a 65-mile flight over Lake Erie. More than 
150,000 people witnessed the historic flight. Curtiss piloted a Hudson Flyer open 
biplane, equipped with a 30 hp engine and a 5-gallon fuel tank. His fastest speed 
was 64 miles per hour, the slowest 35 miles per hour. The fuel consumption was 
one gallon in every 15 miles. 

To Glenn Curtiss also belongs the credit for being the first to build and market a 
machine capable of landing and taking off from the surface of the sea. His first 
successful flight with a hydro-aeroplane was made on January 26, 1911. He went 
on from that accomplishment to produce an aeroplane named the Curtiss Triad, 
so-called for its ability to navigate equally well on land, on sea and in the air. 

No record of the environment in which George Schmitt grew up would be com- 
plete without also mentioning Charles Hampson Grant, a native of New Jersey. 
He was two years younger than George. Even before moving to Peru, Vermont, at 
the age of 10, young Grant had built a glider of his own design which flew 128 feet 
in the street in front of his house. After moving to Vermont, Grant constructed 
another glider in 1909, The aircraft crashed on its first flight and was never 
rebuilt. He made his first successful flight in a new, much better glider on August 
15, 1910. He continued to build gliders for the next five years. A ruptured eardrum 
prevented his learning to fly an airplane. Instead, he went on to study engineering 
at Princeton University and later at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 
became a nationally recognized designer of aircraft. He influenced the lives of 
thousands of American youth in their pursuit of inventiveness and technical 
achievement through model aircraft building and as editor of the foremost model 
aircraft magazine of its day. As of 1985, Charles Hampson Grant is still living in 
the Manchester, Vermont, area. He is 91 years old. 

Though earlier aviation meets had been held in Europe prior to 1910, this was 
the year that flying in America definitely started to accelerate. America's first 
International Air Tournament was held at Los Angeles under the management of 

46 




Glider made by Charles H. Grant, Peru, Vermont, flown in 1912. Left to right: 
Duncan Grant, James Baird, Grant, and Sam Ogden 



Dick Ferris, the actor, on January 10-20, 1910. Among the American aviators who 
participated were Glenn H. Curtiss, Clifford B. Harmon, Charles K. Hamilton, 
Frank Johnson, Charles F. Willard and many others, plus a number of the leading 
fliers of Europe. The meet was held at Old Dominguez Ranch, a few miles south of 
the city, near Compton. Twenty-five thousand people packed the grandstand, 
while thousands more milled around the field. Back East, George Schmitt in 
Rutland, Vermont, no doubt read about the meet with excitement and must have 
wished he could have been there. 

George was an energetic young man, six feet tall and personable. He had a 
brother, Charles, who was three years younger and even taller. Charles helped 
George with his self-taught aeronautical projects. Between them, as young 
teenagers, they had constructed a successful glider in 1909, which gave George, 
like Charles Grant in Peru, a greater feeling for aerodynamics and a future in the 
field of aviation. Numerous flights were made with this hang-type glider from a 
bluff in Buffum's Meadow, which is located in the southeast part of the city. Not 
all the flights were successful. 

So, not suprisingly, in 1910, with the help of brother Charles, George tried-out a 
later glider at the Rutland Fairgrounds. The Rutland Herald reported the event in 
the August 29, 1910, issue: 

The glider belonging to George and Charles Schmitt of Royce St. was 
given its second tryout at the fairgrounds at 12:30 o'clock before a large 
crowd. The skids, used in place of wheels, increased efficiency so much 
that when attached to an automobile by ropes and towed around the track 
it rose to a height of 20 feet and maintained this height for nearly 100 
yards. 
By 1910 many people living near the largest cities had attended at least one 
airplane exhibition. This was not true, however, of people living in the more rural 
areas, such as Vermont. Up to this time, hot air balloonists and balloon parachute 
jumpers had been thrilling audiences at county fairs for many years. Now, they 
were becoming "old hat". The crowds were looking forward to new thrills, which 
could be provided through the flights of the airplane. The people of Vermont, then 
as now, were remarkably progressive in their quiet, unpretentious way. The com- 
mittees for the larger fairs began to think about flights from the race track or the 
infield in front of the grandstand. Consequently, thousands of Vermonters in the 
early years of the 20th century had an opportunity to see their first airplane flight 
earlier than many who lived in similar communities in other parts of the country. 
Regional fairs that contracted for exhibition flights in those days included such 
places as St. Johnsbury, White River Junction, Middlebury, Northfield and Bar- 
ton. In Brattleboro, the first aviation event occurred in 1912 with, not a flight, but 

47 




Glider of George and Charles Schmitt, flown at Rutland Fairgrounds, August, 
1910 

the return of its native son, Iran D. Spaulding, the first Vermonter to be granted a 
pilot's license (No. 107). He came home from California at the age of 20. He had 
just graduated from the flying school operated by Glenn Curtiss near San Diego. 
After a brief stay, Spaulding left for the Curtiss factory at Hammondsport, New 
York. 

George Schmitt as a student at the electrical trade school in New York City was 
drawn like a magnet to the flying field at Mineola on Long Island. With financial 
assistance from his family and several businessmen in Rutland, George purchas- 
ed a Curtiss biplane from C. and A. Wittemann on Staten Island. He planned to fly 
the plane that year at the Rutland Fair in September. In those days the small, 
frail crafts of the period were seldom flown cross-country and never for long 
distances, except for prize money. Instead, they were designed for quick, easy 
assembly. The principal components were packed in special boxes and went in a 
baggage car on the train in which the aviator traveled. 

The 40-horsepower Elbridge "Featherweight" engine that George had ordered 
arrived too late to be installed and tested before it was time to ship the biplane to 
Rutland. Although George had never flown anything except his glider, he had pro- 
mised the fair committee that he would try to make a flight. 

The aviation feature at the 1910 Rutland Fair turned out to be a great disap- 
pointment. George tried for two days to start the engine. Two Rutland mechanics, 
Alfred Frenier and Wayne Clark, tried to help, but failed to remedy the situation. 
Loose valves caused by "jolting the cars" during shipment to Rutland was given 
as the reason for the engine trouble. 

On what was known as Green's Field in Rutland, a few rods south of the 
fairgrounds, about where the Travelodge is now located, George finally got his 
plane off the ground on the third morning of the fair, Thursday, September 8th. He 
made several hops, which could hardly be regarded as flights and he was never 
seen from the fairgrounds. His goal to make the first offical flight, ever, in the 
state of Vermont was not achieved. 

Also engaged to fly at the Rutland Fair the same September in 1910 was J.C. 
Storrs of New York City. He had a Bleriot monoplane shipped to the fairgrounds 
from Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was similar to the type of plane piloted by Louis 
Bleriot when he completed the first crossing of the English Channel from France 
to Britain in 1909. Storrs' plane was assembled in the same field as George's, 
south of the fairgrounds, but bad luck dogged all his efforts to fly and the plane 
never left the ground during the fair. His engine finally did start on Thursday 
afternoon but only by accident while the monoplane was still in the tent. Storrs 

48 










Credited with the first official air flight in Rutland, Charles Morok takes off from 
the back stretch of the race track on Labor Day, September 4, 1911. 







Close-up of Morok's plane at the Rutland Fair, 1911. Note the X identifying Kill- 
ington Mountain. 



49 



jumped to the controls to shut down the engine, but he did not reach them in time. 
The propellor blades hit the wall of the tent, tearing part of it into shreds. As 
neither of the fragile airplanes could be left out of doors, unprotected from the 
weather, this decisively ended all hopes of the people of Rutland to be the first in 
the state to see an airplane make a real flight. A day or two later, George 
Schmitt's biplane and the J.C. Storrs' Bleriot were on their way back to Long 
Island and Connecticut. 

Considerable rivalry existed that year between the management of the 
Caledonia County Fair at St. Johnsbury and the Rutland Fair as to which would 
be responsible for the first flight of an aeroplane in Vermont. The Caledonia Fair 
won the honor with Charles F. Willard and his biplane on September 15, 1910. 
Willard, age 27, made two flights on that last day at St. Johnsbury. He had come to 
St. J. on the over-night train from Boston where he had participated in the Boston 
Aviation Meet at Squantum. He was the nation's first barnstorming pilot and the 
fourth American to pilot an airplane. He was the proud owner of the United States 
Pilot's License No. 10. Charles Willard lived to be 93 years old. 

In 1911 George Schmitt did not appear at the Rutland Fair. The management 
engaged the services of Charles Morok, a well-known pioneer aviator of New 
York City. He had formed a small exhibition flying organization which he called 
the Morok Aeroplane Company. On Labor Day, September 4, 1911, he took off 
from the back stretch of the race track. He headed west in front of the grands- 
tand. This was the first official flight in Rutland. After a few minutes in the air, 
Morok returned and landed his plane on the infield in front of the grandstand. His 
contract called for flights around Killington, weather permitting, plus two other 
flights each day to last at least five miles in length. Apparently, weather permit- 
ted flights each day except Friday of that week. 

Later, in the spring of 1912, Charles Schmitt sent his brother a picture postcard 
with the following message: 

Your rival of last year and peak (x) he should have flown over. Do you 
want some more of Morok's pictures in the air? Write soon. 

Charley 

Rutland was not the only fair featuring flying as the main attraction in 1911. At 
what was called the Vermont State Fair at White River Junction, Charles K. 
Hamilton was engaged to fly from September 19-22. However, he made only one 
flight during the entire four days of the fair. On the second day 24,000 people at- 
tended, only to be disappointed. On the third day Hamilton was in the air for 11 
minutes, while he made a few simple circles in front of the grandstand. All but 
this one of his planned flights were aborted by bad weather. 

Charles Hamilton, who was issued United States Pilot's License No. 12 was a 
former trick bicycle rider, parachute jumper and glider and dirigible operator. 
He was a member of the Curtiss Exhibition Company for a time and was regarded 
as a fearless, sometimes even reckless, flyer, which resulted in many accidents 
and broken bones. 

George was in Mineola the year that Charles Morok was at the Rutland Fair. 
During that summer of 1911, he became acquainted with Captain Thomas Scott 
Baldwin. The title was one that Baldwin had given himself for professional 
reasons when he was a noted dirigible pilot and parachute jumper. He learned to 
fly at the age of 50 in 1910. Then he organized an exhibition team. He and a number 
of his pilots flew at Mineola in 1911 when George Schmitt was there. The Baldwin 
aviators used only special biplanes, somewhat resembling a Curtiss plane. They 
were built only for Baldwin and to his own specifications by C. and A. Whit- 
temann. Tom Baldwin was undoubtedly an indirect influence on George's 
development as an aviator. 

George was learning to fly the airplane he had just purchased. He made rapid 
progress, although only 19 years of age. According to the late Ainslee Hassam of 
North Clarendon, who possessed a large collection of old photographs, newspaper 
clippings and personal correspondence that traces Schmitt's brief but colorful 
career, the Rutland flyer was given one of the first air routes, No. 631004, and in 
his first test flight he remained aloft for 22 minutes at an altitude of 3,000 feet. 

He soon became proficient enough as a pilot to form his own company. This he 
did at Mineola with a man named Henry Thor. Together they formed the Thor- 

50 



Schmitt Aviation Company for the purpose of making exhibition flights. An office 
was opened on Broadway in New York to serve as a headquarters from which 
bookings to fly could be made. Thor was the business manager in the partnership, 
although he was an aviator in his own right. George did the flying, as he owned the 
plane. Thor had some experience in exhibition work, so when a contract to fly was 
signed, Henry Thor, as advance man, would visit the locality first and attend to 
publicity and other details. 

A full-page advertisement in a trade journal featured a picture of a Curtiss-type 
biplane in flight. The caption read: 

George Schmitt, a Young Novice, Flying in Mineola. His Curtiss-type 
machine is on the field early and late. Schmitt is but 19, and has the en- 
thusiasm of a boy with a new toy. Old aviators say he has the making of a 
cracker-jack aviator if he will curb his exuberance, take aviation serious- 
ly and not try to learn it all at one. 
Schmitt's first exhibition flying was at a fair at Medina, New York, where he 
made two good flights on August 25, 1911. His next engagement was at the Central 
Maine Fair at Waterville for three days of flying, beginning Thursday, August 
31st. All went well the first day. Then on Friday, the landing wheels of his airplane 
hit a telephone line and he was thrown from the plane. The machine received only 
minor damage and George, miraculously, was not injured. 

From Maine he and Thor went to Potsdam, New York, where George flew at the 
Potsdam Fair on September 6, 7 and 8. From Potsdam, George mailed a card to 




The Rutland aviator and his business partner, Henry Thor 

51 



RUTLAND COUNTY 
AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY, INC. 

RUTLAND FAIRGROUNDS 
RUTLAND, VERMONT 05701 

February 12, 1973 



Mr. McDevitt: 

Have looked up my records and 
find that the Arts and Crafts Build- 
ing was built in 1912. 

Hope this is the information you 
desire . 

Very truly yours, 
VERMONT STATE FAIR 

Suzanne M, Shaw 
Clerk 



Confirmation received by the author proving that the picture, often attributed to 
Schmitt, was actually of a flight made by Morok in 1911. 




EN] 




This picture has frequently been attributed to a George Schmitt flight at the 
Rutland Fair, September, 1913. Actually, the flight was one made by Charles 
Morok in 1911. The planes owned by the two aviators were very similar. The 
building shown at the center of the picture, directly below the plane is the Hor- 
ticultural Building. By 1912 the Horticultural Building had been moved back to 
make room for the new Arts and Crafts Building, erected that same year. 



52 



his mother in Rutland, on the back which was pasted a newspaper clipping which 
read : 

AVIATOR MAKES RECORD FLIGHT FROM POTSDAM 
George Schmitt Ascends 5,000 Feet . . . Highest Altitude Reached in New 
York 

Special to the Post Standard 
POTSDAM, Sept. 13 . . . George Schmitt with the Thor Aviation Com- 
pany, who has been flying at the Potsdam Fair, flew to-day over three 
towns in Northern New York. He circled over Potsdam at 5:15 and drop- 
ped a note ordering his dinner to be ready at 7:30 o'clock. He started for a 
cross-country flight over Norwood and other towns in this section. 

Schmitt was lost to view behind the clouds, being at times at an altitude 
of over 5,000 feet. He returned to Potsdam at 7:30 o'clock and was greeted 
by a crowd of enthusiastic persons. The aviator was carried on their 
shoulders to dinner at the Albion House. Schmitt uses a 60-horsepower 
Hall, Scott motor in a Curtis (sic) biplane. 
George Schmitt added at the end of the article, in his own handwriting, to his 
mother, "And we'll do the same thing . . . Over and Over again". 

His last date of the season was at the Fairfield County Fair at Danbury, Connec- 
ticut, on October 3rd. Here he had another accident, again without injury to 
himself or much damage to his airplane. His engine failed in flight, forcing him to 
land in a swamp. After repairing his machine, George shipped it to Rutland where 
Charles Schmitt put the crated components in storage for the winter. George 
himself, went to Mineola to join another pilot for a winter tour of the Caribbean 
Islands. He never flew the Wittemann-built Curtiss again. He instructed Charles 
to sell the plane for $500. The April 25, 1913 issue of the trade journal Aero and 
Hydro (page 80) carried the following advertisement: 

For Sale: George Schmitt's successful Curtiss-type biplane in crates. 
Many extras. Cheap. Charles Schmitt, Rutland, Vt. 
Schmitt was engaged to carry mail at the Fort Recovery, Ohio, sixth annual 
Harvest Festival in August of 1912. This "Aerial Post" had become a daily feature 
attraction at an aviation meet the previous fall at a new Long Island, New York, 
flying field called Nassau Boulevard. Mail was collected and postmarked at the 
flying field and flown to the nearest post office and dropped. It was then picked up 
and put on a train. Aerial Post was popular from the beginning by exhibition 
pilots, to increase their profits through postcard sales and larger crowds. Exhibi- 
tion pilots usually charged a percentage of the gate receipts. The mail stunt, 
however, is not to be confused with air mail service as we know it today. Such ser- 
vice was not started until May of 1918, with a 200-mile experimental line between 
New York and Washington. 

So, at Fort Recovery on August 6, 1912, "airmail" pilot Schmitt took his plane 
aloft for a test flight. While in the air the crank shaft broke in two and he was forc- 
ed to glide in for a landing, minus engine assistance. The part could not be fixed or 
quickly replaced, so the airmail which had accumulated at the field was taken by 
hand to the Fort Recovery post office. Another plane was brought in the following 
day but the jinx persisted. That plane had to be overhauled and work could not be 
finished in time for the mail flight on Wednesday. 

The desperate festival officials . . . now two days behind schedule . . . called in 
another pilot, Earle Sandt. Known as the "Boy Wonder", he came from Penn- 
slyvania, and, finally, on August 8, the mail at Fort Recovery took to the air. Ap- 
proximately 1500 cards and letters were canceled at the event. Sandt flew a se- 
cond day on Friday, August 9th. 
George sent a card to his brother, then in New Jersey: 
Dear Charles . . . 

Write me here at Fort Recovery. Had rotten luck today. Crank shaft 
broke after the 1st flight. Will lose a wk now and about $1000. 

George Schmitt 

Despite this set-back, earlier in the season George had already established a 

world's speed record for biplane flying, having flown from Bellefontaine, Ohio, to 

Kenton, Ohio, a distance of 24 miles in 16 minutes. George's longest cross country 

flight was from Alliance, Ohio, to Chester, West Virginia, and back, and from 

53 



Alliance to East Liverpool, Ohio, a total distance of 164 miles. It was a sensation of 
the 1912 season in the aerial world. 

George Schmitt had promised to include the State Fair in his hometown during 
the barnstorming season of 1912. He had gone to Rocky Hill, New Jersey, near 
Princeton, in the spring of 1912 to build a new, better airplane. It was a headless 
Red Devil-type biplane similar to the airplanes that C. and A. Wittemann were 
then building for Thomas Baldwin. Charles Schmitt sent Vermont wood for struts 
and other parts from Rutland. To cover the wings and control surfaces, George 
used rubberized red cloth he purchased from Captain Baldwin at Mineola. The 
red cloth, developed by Baldwin, was 33 inches wide and cost 90C per yard. Its use 
led to the name "Red Devil" by which Baldwin planes were known. 

Before keeping the September engagement in Rutland, George made two 
flights a day at the Addison County Fair at Middlebury, Vermont. On August 29th 
his first flight was forced down by engine failure. His second flight was completed 
in 16 minutes. 

In Rutland on September 2nd, the Red Devil biplane started off a week that was 
packed with thrills for fairgoers. On September 6, George was given a gold watch 
by admiring friends. The week was shared with W. Leonard Bonney, who used a 
Deperdussin monoplane with which he also thrilled fairgoers throughout the 
week. 



>i 




George Schmitt at the Addison County Fair in Middlebury, August, 1912 



After completion of his engagement at Rutland Fair, Schmitt went to Nor- 
thfield, to fly at the Dog River Valley Fair, September 10-12. At Northfield, 
George made the first flights ever seen in the area. He flew on Tuesday and 
Wednesday, the 10th and 11th. He did not stay for the final day, however, but went 
to St. Johnsbury, where he flew on Thursday, the 12th, at the Caledonia County 
Fair. He had been asked to fill in for George Dyott, of the Morok Aeroplane Com- 
pany, who had met with an accident which wrecked his plane. From St. 
Johnsbury Schmitt shipped his plane to Mineola, New York. Following that, he 
and Thor completed plans for a special winter tour of the Caribbean Islands. For 
this he used a special plane. 

George Schmitt and Henry Thor sailed from New York to San Juan, Puerto 
Rico, on November 2, 1912. With them they took a true Baldwin Red Devil biplane. 



54 




During the Caribbean tour George 
was idolized by the public and 
entertained lavishly by high ranking 
dignatories. 



Counting the day's receipts during 
the Caribbean tour, winter 
and spring of 1912-13 




55 




Schmitt makes his first flight over Rutland at the 1912 fair. 




Schmitt's "Red Devil" at Wilson Field, Rutland, 1912 



56 



It must have been one of the early airplanes that C. and A. Wittemann had built 
for Thomas Baldwin, because it had a forward elevator. Like the Red Devil type 
machine that George had flown during the 1912 season, it, too, was powered by a 
75 horsepower Rausenberger engine. 

The Schmitt-Thor tour through the Caribbean Islands, Central America and the 
northern part of South America is a story of success and adventure. George and 
Thor were idolized by the public and entertained lavishly by high ranking 
dignitaries wherever they went. It was during this triumphant tour that George 
made an historic flight, becoming the first aviator to fly from the Atlantic Ocean 
to the Pacific. This was accomplished by flying across the Isthmus of Panama. 
The tour came to a successful end when the two men arrived back in New York 
early in June, 1913. 

Tony Marro, reporter, in a Rutland Herald article of 1963 recounts the following 
incident that occurred on that memorable trip : 

Now seated in front of a 85-horsepower engine, he roared high over Port 
of Spain while more that 30,000 openmouthed spectators craned their 
necks to watch. But upon landing he was placed under arrest as a spy and 
charged with trying to learn the military secrets of Fort George. Red- 
faced officials quickly released him and allowed him to give several more 
exhibitions. 
George Schmitt had agreed to return to the Rutland Fair in 1913. On his first day 
of flying on September first, he made 13 flights, covering a distance of approx- 
imately 130 miles. On some flights he carried passengers. They included Joseph 
Eaton, Wilfred Frenier, and his own father, George Schmitt, Sr. George resumed 
flying on September 2nd, when he again carried passengers. A sub-station of the 
Rutland Post Office was set up at the fair grounds by Postmaster Pease. He per- 




George Schmitt and friends in front of the "Red Devil' ' at the 1913 Rutland Fair. 
From left to right, in the foreground: D. Noyes, Wallace Remington, Schmitt, Ira 
Watkins, Wilfred A. Frenier. 



57 



sonally hand-stamped all the mail brought to him. George then carried the 54 
pieces of officially canceled mail from the fairgrounds to the Rutland Post Office. 
This flight was offically known as Pioneer Airmail Flight No. 66. Subsequently, it 
was changed to Pioneer Airmail Flight No. 69, because other flights in California 
and Texas, prior to Schmitt's flight, had not been recorded. Therefore, Schmitt's 
number was changed to 69. 

Following his trip with mail to the Rutland Post Office, George continued to 
make flights and to carry passengers for the remainder of the afternoon. Sixty 
people were waiting in line for a ride. Then shortly after 6:00 p.m. the plane 
soared from Green's Field, south of the grounds with Attorney J. Dyer Spellman 
of Rutland as the passenger. At an altitude of about 500 feet and in plain view of 
the grandstand, the plane was seen to wobble, then one wing dropped sharply. 
Plainly out of control, it plunged toward the ground and crashed in a nearby field. 
The time was 6 :05 p.m. 

George was crushed by the engine when it broke loose from its mounting. He 
was rushed to the Rutland Hospital in Dr. W.W. Townsend's car. He died four 
hours later at 10:02 p.m. Spellman, who was 22 years old, was badly shaken but 
sustained no broken bones. He recovered. 

George Schmitt was Vermont's first aviation fatality. There was much debate 
as to the cause of the accident. Charles Schmitt explained what had happened in 
an open letter to the national aviation trade journals:* 

When at an altitude of 500 feet, the engine began to misfire. Dirt in the 
carburetor. George immeduately started to volplane (i.e., glide). 
Spellman, the passenger, lost his head, rose from his seat and stood on the 
three control wires which passed between his legs. The strain broke the 
rudder control wire. Then the passenger reached forward and seized my 
brother's shoulder yoke and pulled it toward him. This, of course, threw 
the plane in a steep bank. With the rudder gone, George was powerless to 
straighten again while the passenger hung desperately to the shoulder 
control. My brother struggled to bring the machine back, but could not 




George Schmitt, over the Rutland Fairgrounds in 1913. The grandstand is in the 
background at the left edge of the photograph. Just beyond it is the new Arts and 
Crafts Building, which was not yet built in 1911, when Morok flew at the fair. 



58 



get out of Spellman's grasp. The plane crashed to the ground. The actual 
fall was about 200 feet. The radiator fell on George and he died of internal 
injuries and a broken skull, hip and jaw. He never lost consciousness. 
Spellman escaped with only a few injuries. 
Funeral services for George Schmitt were held from The Congregational 
Church**with the Reverend Arthur Howe Bradford officiating. The services took 
place on Friday, Septembers, at 1:30 p.m. The bearers were: Dr. F.H. Gebhardt, 
Wilfred A. Frenier, Newman C. Wade, Wallace Remington, Thomas C. Dunn and 
Arthur H. Eastman. George was buried in the family plot in Evergreen 
Cemetery, Center Rutland. 

George Schmitt lived but a brief 21 years. They were years crowded, however, 
with more living than many experience in "three score and ten". Despite his 
youth and brief career, he remains a meaningful and distinctive part of the 
dramatic history of aviation and the courageous group of pilots who flew those 
early fragile planes. In 1963 Ainslee Hassam called attention to the 50th anniver- 
sary of Pioneer Airmail No. 69. The Rutland County Stamp Club designed and 
distributed a souvenir cover at the Vermont State Fair at Rutland to com- 
memorate the pilot George Schmitt. In 1973 it again commemorated the pilot, 
marking the 60th anniversary of his 1913 flight. 



* Aero and Hydro (September 27, 1913) 484 
Aeronautics (October 1913) 156 

**The Grace Congregational United Church of Christ since 1969. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Pictorial Support: Dr. Paul G. Abajian, Fred L. Baldwin, Royal W, Bar- 
nard, Charles W. Grant, Ainslee O, Hassam, Thomas B. McDevitt, Frank 
Punderson, Herman D. Willey 
Photography: Michael McMorrow 
Publications: 

Borden, Norman E. Jr.; Vermont History, Autumn, 1973, No. 4 
Dealer, Frank J.; Yankee Magazine, When "Honey Fitz" Flew with 
Grahame-White, September, 1977 

Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society, Fall, 1971 
Rutland Herald: 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1963 
Villard, Henry Serrano; Contact, the Story of the Early Birds 



59 



118™ Annua 




Sept. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1963 

RUTLAND COUNTY 
STAMP CLUB 



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31 



50th Anniversary 

U.S. Pioneer Air Mail Flight No. 66 

Sept. 2, 1913 at Rutland, Vt. 

Pilot George Schmitt 



Souvenir covers distributed at the Rutland Fair in 1963 and 1973, commemorating 
the 50th and 60th anniversaries of Schmitt' s 1913 flight. 



128 th ANNUAL 



5 THK BOSTON TK\ PARTY 



Til F BOSTON TKV PARTY = 




SEPT. 2-8, 1973 

Cover by Ru timid County Sump Club 



60 




The novice aviator at age 17. George Schmitt shown here with his father, George 
Schmitt, Sr. 




Crowd surrounding the wrecked plane that killed George Schmitt, September 2, 
1913 at the State Fairgrounds, Rutland, Vermont. 



61 



AUTHOR 

Thomas B. McDevitt is a native of Rutland and was educated locally. He is a 
member of the Rutland Historical Society before which on occasion he has 
presented slide programs. 




Rutland Free Library 

The Rutland Fairgrounds as they looked in 1913, when George Schmitt made his 
last flight. 



62 




George Schmitt, age 21, photographed shortly before his death, September 2, 1913. 



63 



RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 

101 CENTER STREET, RUTLAND, VERMONT 05701 

(802)775-2006; 775-0179 

The Rutland Historical Society was founded in 1969 to preserve, study and 
disseminate the history of the original Town of Rutland as chartered by New 
Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth in 1761, now comprised of the City of 
Rutland (1892) and the Towns of Rutland (1761), Proctor (1886) and West Rutland 
(1886). The Society maintains and operates The Rutland Museum in the historic 
Bank of Rutland building built in 1825, now owned by the City of Rutland, and The 
Vermont Farm and Rural Life Museum at the Vermont State Fair. A research 
library and the historical collections are maintained in the Museums and the 
historic Nickwackett Fire Station. Gifts or bequests of articles of historical in- 
terest or money are welcome at all times and are deductible for income tax pur- 
poses. 

Membership in the Society is open to all upon payment of appropriate dues. 
(See the dues schedule below.) With membership, for its period, go a subscription 
to the Quarterly, any newsletters, a copy of the Annual Report, entitlement to 
vote at business meetings, and benefits accruing from support of the Society's 
Museums, exhibits, programs, collections and library. The year through which 
membership is paid and the category are noted on all address labels. 

Please send any address change on Postal Service Form 3576 (a postcard freely 
available at your local post office) . 
Annual dues categories are : Sustaining $100 or more Contributing $15 

Sponsor $ 25 Regular $ 5 

Special one-payment categories are: Life $125 Memorial $150 

Advance payment for 2 or 3 years is welcome, helping to reduce costs. 
Please make checks payable to: Rutland Historical Society 
and send to : Treasurer 

62 Ormsbee Ave., Proctor, VT. 05765 
Manuscripts are invited; address correspondence to the Managing Editor. 

Editor: Michael L. Austin Managing Editor: Jean C. Ross 

Copyright © 1985, The Rutland Historical Society, Inc. 



RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
101 Center Street 
Rutland, Vermont 05701 

ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED 

FORWARDING AND 

RETURN POSTAGE GUARANTEED 



NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION 

U. S. POSTAGE 
PAID 

Rutland, Vermont 
Permit No. 12 




The number or letter on the address label indicates your dues status: 
84 one year in arrears 85 current L life membership